Star Rovers Part IV
Well, this is the first time in the history of this blog anyone actually commented to say they were looking forward to/waiting for something, so I suppose it’s a good idea to actually write it. I also have a special treat for you… some scanned art from the game, so you can see a bit of what I’ve been talking about.
A minor digression, here — something you ought to be used to if you’ve been reading this blog, or, well, anything I write that’s longer than a Facebook status update. Comments help. A lot. There’s often a feeling of screaming into the wilderness, here. Any kind of feedback which isn’t coming from a spambot trying to sell fake watches or link you to malware sites encourages me to keep writing. My game collection is immense, and includes a lot of fairly rare old games and fairly obscure newer ones… if there’s a particular game you’d like to see me work through/review, let me know, and I’ll see if I have it. A lot of my "game design" time… well, OK, all of my "game design" time… these days is taken up with Earth Delta, but these types of articles occupy a different sphere, so I don’t feel I’m "getting distracted" if I work on them. (PS: Today I wrote the words "Earth Delta Beta 1" on my ever-growing rules document… it may be a bit before that’s actually posted, but it really is happening.)
Links are cool, too. You link to me, I link to you. Based on the overall readership of this thing, that’s a lot more benefit to me than to you. Hey, I’m honest, at least!
OK, enough of this stuff. On to the actual article.
Read more for amazing art, interesting classes, and maybe even a look at the equipment lists…
But First, My Political Affiliation
Lawful Cranky. Oh, wait, I mean my character’s political affiliation. My as-yet-unnamed character. Hrm. At this point, he needs a name, something vaugely 80s-ish without being self consciously 80s-ish, a name you’d really use for a game like this… Tam Blackwing. Doesn’t really mean anything, but it sounds cool.
Last time, I missed a pretty important chart. Fortunately, it doesn’t impact anything. This is the political alignment and special background chart. The DM rolls 5 dice, and…
Hm? Oh, great, more comments from the peanut gallery. Yes? Yes, I said the DM rolls to see what your political alignment and background is. So he takes 5 dice, and…
No, why should you get to choose? And why should the DM worry that random chance will result in a party of grossly mismatched characters constantly at each other’s throats? Silly mortal!
So, with no further interruptions, the DM rolls 5 dice… OK, and consults a fairly interesting set of rules to interpret them. This isn’t a "read the number down the chart" system, this is an intricate set of multiple interpretations of a single die roll. The multi-colored dice (3 light brown, one red, one green) come into play again. OK, the brown dice are 6,6,1, the red die is a 1, and he green die is a 3. Let’s see what that means…
No pair on the colored dice. I’m not an Orphan.
OK, a single odd pair indicates I’m pro-imperial, or, to use the classic Star Rovers uniquely idiosyncratic capitalization conventions "Any Single ODD PAIR indicates PRO-IMPERIAL". However, a single even pair indicates I’m PRO-REBEL. There’s special conditions for two odd pairs, or two even pairs, or even or odd triplets, but not one odd and one even pair. This might fall into "any other result" which indicates I’m a non-aligned non-citizen, which sort of makes me worry I’ll be sent off to Space Gitmo. Well, as a 12 year old former factory worker, I suppose I might have "fallen through the cracks" in terms of making sure my papers are in order.
Oh, yes, I promised art, didn’t I?
If you can look at this, and not want to play this game, you are not a gamer.
Now, we get to Careers. (Addendum, written after I’d worked through the rest of this article: No, we don’t. Sigh.)
You Gotta Have Class (Especially In The Early 1980s)
After we bleep over the damage rules, we get to the careers, variously referred to as "Character Class", "Career Class", or "Profession". It’s not especially difficult to figure out what’s meant, but it seems a bit odd that there’s so many different terms. It says "Character Class" on the character sheet, but "Career" is more commonly used in the text. Well, this was the days before easy search & replace, so it’s hard to fault them too much there. As rules evolve, terms change, and sometimes you just don’t catch them all.
There are 10 careers in Module 1, and 6 more promised for Module 2. Surprisingly, none of the careers seem unplayable or self-evidently useless, or even particularly redundant, though "Zenos" (science officers/alien contact specialist) and "Riggers" (Engineers) seem to overlap a lot with "Genies", a Module 2 career that is supposed to be "Scientists". Other Module 2 careers include "Carnys", which includes musicians, dancers, etc, who travel the star lanes, "Seekers", who are concerned with "synchronizing their lives with the machinations of the Cosmic Eg". (Yes, "Eg", with one "g"), and, of course, the lamented Star Knights, "Warrior Priest Guardians of Justice and Order".
The Module 1 careers are prety decent. Spacers (yes, you can roll up/play a starship pilot when there are no rules for space travel.), Merks (Mercenaries), Shadowjacks (Thieves), "Handijacks" (Cross-career specialists), "Diplos" (Diplomats/politicians), and so on. Most of the major archetypes are present in the Module 1 list, but it really does seem the extra-cool classes were being saved for Module 2. Traders, Espers, and Star Knights in particular are major archetypes for this kind of game.)
This isn’t by Greg Espinoza, which is a pity. But it pretty clearly embodies the attitude and ethos of Star Rovers.
So what career should I pick? Well, the summary list doesn’t give a lot of mechanic detail, such as which stats might be needed for which career, so I’ll just flip the page, and there’s a list of Space Corporations, such as "Intergalactic Business Logic Machines" (IBLM) and other organizations such as the "Black Heart" (The Space Mafia). Uhm, OK, so the character class details are next… no, there’s Security Clearances. Then Lending Institutions. Then the monetary system (which uses "Imperial Credits", pretty typical, but there’s a conversion table for D&D type coinage to imperial credits and oh my facking god one gold coin is worth 20,000 credits? (A dollar is worth 0.25 credits. Which implies a gold coin, 1/10th of a lb of gold by classic AD&D 1e standards, is worth 80,000 dollars. Whoa, I mean, I knew inflation was pretty high in the early 1980s and a lot of dystopian SF implied that by the late 1990s we’d be paying a million bucks for a loaf of bread, but… sheesh. Someone really wanted to hand the galaxy over to any cross-reality adventurers, didn’t they? "Hey, here I am, Bronk the Barbarian, 4th level, and I’ve got this pouch of 400 gold pieces, which might buy me a half-decent suit of armor or half of a +1 dagger back home, and it’s worth how much? Screw it, I’m buying me a starship! Two starships! Three, so I have one for my horse! Yee-hah! Oh, wait, there’s no starship rules yet…"
Flip some more pages, and we have a full page of art, a character sheet, and "Character Development" — basically, the rules for XP, raising ability scores, and so on. You get extra hit points as you level up based on your class, of course, but not too many… you will never be bouncing laser beams off your chest. After the rules for spending experience, we get to the rules for awarding experience, and me am so happy to find game written on planet of Bizarros where everything am opposite of Earth things. (By the way, the max level is 12, which is a nice change from the Monty Haul extremes many games of this era went to.)
Next we get Acquiring Skills, which is a bit more class related… please note we haven’t seen any skills listed yet. Rather nicely, while you will always find it easier to learn your career skills, you are not limited to them, and there’s plenty of opportunity for cross training. You begin with a number of skills equal to your Memory Element, and at least half must be learned outside your career. My memory, you may recall (heh heh) is 3, so I begin with three skills, at least half (I guess that means "1") coming from something other than my class, which, I might not, I still haven’t picked, because we still have no details on the classes mechanically. But we are talking about learning skills and reading the skill entries and some very complex charts for cross-training filled with things like "DTN x 2" and "BXP x 1.5", so obviously the character classes are coming, I just turn the page and get Skill Resolution Rules, which is still sort of related, and then we move into…
You’ll need to read more. You know you want to.
Artifacts And Equipment
A Small Portion Of The Tech Level Poster. I like "Cosmic Indifference"
After several relatively-topical pages on experience, skill training, and skill use, we have a section of rules on how to determine the availability of equipment, figuring out if your equipment breaks, and a half-page chart for figuring out if you can buy a particular item at a given starport. Well, uhm, OK. Maybe this is the start of the equipment section, for some reason. I guess if we turn the page, we will find equipment lists. Or maybe the classes and skill lists. I mean, what else could be here?
Aw, come on, guess.
Oh, you’re no fun any more.
You know, digging for ore? "There’s gold in them thar hills!"? Not even asteroid mining per se (well, with no way to fly to the asteroid belts in the rules, this is a small mercy, I guess), but a general system for mining, including the size of the strike, a bunch of modifiers for the URM, and how much it costs to file a claim with the Imperial Min… I mean, the IMPERIAL MINISTRY OF DEVELOPMENT (and even a table for figuring out the chance of a prior claim). It’s not a bad set of rules. It’s a good example of how to use the URM to handle almost any kind of activity. It’s the sort of thing players might want to do, I guess, some of the time.
But why is it sitting between "Generating Atrributes" and "Character Classes"?
Why is it even in "Module 1" when there are so many other things that could have been on that page? Like "What’s a Biomorph", maybe? Or "How To Fly A Spaceship"?
I recently "friended" Nevile Stockon, the primary author of Star Rovers. I hope he gets around to reading this little series some time. If you are reading this, Nevile, please understand something. I do not hate Star Rovers, or even dislike it. Indeed, it remains the source of many of my fondest high school era gaming memories and there are uncounted gems of pure brilliance scattered throughout the rules. "Star Rovers", in my opinion, is not some sort of camp horror of gaming, ala Synnibarr or That Which Must Not Be Named, but an astounding piece of work that veers back and forth between genius and insanity and sometimes both at the same time, pure quantum superposition, but it is never mediocre or dull. And if you are reading this and want to explain why some of the design decisions I have, ah, questioned, were made, I’d welcome it. Post a reply, or I’ll post a complete article if you want to write one. I’d love to hear it. (And, ahem, if you’ve got some notes for Module 2 anywhere…)
However, there is hope… light… life… something… at the end of the tunnel. Following the rules on Prospecting, we see… the "Spacer" class, and its attendant skills, and even the attribute prerequisites! I can choose a class, at long last, and while I know that was promised for this section, it just took me way too long to get here. So maybe tomorrow. But, hey, you got pictures! (And there’s more to come!)